The new headquarters of the Church of Scientology is being chased to pay fines of more than $400,000 in code enforcements fees by the city of Clearwater, Florida.
The city is fining the church for failing to commence construction when it was ordered to, and for five years of late fees, plus interest.
It took 12 years, seven months, and 15 days to complete the new church, whose members applied for a building permit in 1999.
At $250 in fines a day, the notices were sent to Scientology officials who never appealed them. City board member Sheila Cole told Clearwater Patch that she was “really bothered” by the church’s activity, and that the board’s order “wasn’t taken seriously.”
The Scientologists’ attorney has sought to reduce the fees, and did receive a small grant based on delays to construction that were beyond that church’s control. Scientologist representatives say they are willing to pay $45,250, which is the cost of fines accumulated up to April 30, 2007. Beyond that date, attorney members say the building was “functionally compliant,” and undeserving of the vast amount fines.
The Scientologists have 30 days to pay the fine or appeal the charges in a circuit court.
In June, the Church of Scientology’s new HQ was finally certified by the city as occupied, and is complete with a black-domed running track for church members.
Called the “Mecca of Scientology” on its website, the eight-story, 377,000 square foot building covers an entire city block in downtown Clearwater. Spokesperson for the Scientologists, Pat Harney, said in a statement that the final touches to the interior are still being completed.
“This is our cathedral,” said Harney. “It’s not just some simple process of building an office.”
The building includes a three-story glass atrium, and a special member lounge area for celebrity Scientologist members such as John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Jason Lee, reported Tampa Bay Online.
The fifth floor is dedicated to the 52 “perceptics”, a principle of Scientology, and was designed to amplify experiences such as taste, sight, hearing, and smell, among other senses.
Also, there are 22 course-training rooms that can hold up to 1,800 people, as well as 300 counseling rooms that were designed for “auditing” sessions.
The executive office is on the top floor of the building, complete with a private bathroom with shower, conference room, and kitchenette.
Harney said that there is no opening date yet for the new building, which is linked by a footbridge to the Church of Scientology’s former headquarters, the Fort Harrison Hotel.